OPT Eligibility Requirements and Types of Employment Permitted

Employment Requirements for Post-Completion OPT

Employment during the Post-Completion OPT authorization period, in all cases, must:

  • Be “directly related to the student’s major area of study.”
  • Be “full-time” employment (20 hours or more per week)

Types of Employment Permitted During Post-Completion OPT

The following type of employment are permitted during Post-Completion OPT:

  • Regular paid employment
  • Self-employment
  • Work for hire or contract work
  • Volunteer or unpaid work

Note for students with a 24-month STEM OPT Extension: your employer must be registered with E-Verify, your position must be paid, and the position must be full-time (20 hours a week or more).

Please be sure to visit our STEM OPT Extension Information Page, for more details the STEM OPT Extension.

OPT Eligibility FAQs 

Q: Do I have to have a job to apply for OPT authorization?

A: No, there is no job requirement to apply for OPT authorization.  You can apply for OPT without a confirmed job, or job offer.

Q: Does OPT authorize me to work in any field in the United States?

A: No, OPT only provides authorization for a graduate to work in their major field of study (listed on your Form I-20).

Q: Do I have to start working on the day listed on my EAD card (my first day of OPT authorization).

A: No, your OPT start date is the earliest day you are permitted to work, but are not obligated to start work on that day.

Q: Do I have to be employed during my OPT authorization period? What if I leave my job, or get fired?

A: Those holding OPT authorization are permitted no more than an aggregate of 90 days of unemployment (during the 12 months of authorization).

Q: Am I allowed to change employers or have multiple employers during my OPT authorization period? 

A: Yes, those holding OPT authorization are permitted to change employers, and to be employed by multiple entities, as long as the employment meets the following criteria:

  1. Total hours of employment equals more than 20 hours per week
  2. Work conducted at each job is related to your major course of study
  3. Employment at each firm is reported to your International Student Advisor

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